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The Shadow King par Maaza Mengiste
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The Shadow King (édition 2020)

par Maaza Mengiste (Auteur)

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3491655,390 (4.04)72
With the threat of Mussolini's army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid in Kidane and his wife Aster's household. Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie's army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invade. His initial kindness to Hirut shifts into a flinty cruelty when she resists his advances, and Hirut finds herself tumbling into a new world of thefts and violations, of betrayals and overwhelming rage. Meanwhile, Mussolini's technologically advanced army prepares for an easy victory. Hundreds of thousands of Italians--Jewish photographer Ettore among them--march on Ethiopia seeking adventure.As the war begins in earnest, Hirut, Aster, and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale. She helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor and soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms against the Italians. But how could she have predicted her own personal war as a prisoner of one of Italy's most vicious officers, who will force her to pose before Ettore's camera?What follows is a gorgeously crafted and unputdownable exploration of female power, with Hirut as the fierce, original, and brilliant voice at its heart. In incandescent, lyrical prose, Maaza Mengiste breathes life into complicated characters on both sides of the battle line, shaping a heartrending, indelible exploration of what it means to be a woman at war.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:Willoyd
Titre:The Shadow King
Auteurs:Maaza Mengiste (Auteur)
Info:Canongate Books (2020), Edition: Main, 448 pages
Collections:E-library
Évaluation:**
Mots-clés:Fiction modern

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The Shadow King par Maaza Mengiste

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I'm very much indebted to Perth-based Sisonke Msimang (director of the Perth festival) for the way her interview with Maaza Mengiste enhanced my reading of The Shadow King. It is a gripping historical novel which reveals a little-known aspect of colonial history in Africa, but it is more than that. It is a book which interrogates the way history is written and perceived.

As Mengiste explained in the interview, having decided on her topic (the Ethiopian war against Mussolini's Italy in 1935) and refined it when her research led her to the discovery that Ethiopian women fought in that war too—and then discovered very late in the day that her own grandmother was one of those women—she then had to grapple with the archive, that is, what the written record tells us compared to what actually happened.

She uses a number of techniques to sheet this message home. We all know that history is written by the victors, but it's common to have unjustified faith in photographs as documentary evidence, rendering them 'irrefutable' facts. But in the novel, the character of Ettore Navarro is a photojournalist under the sadistic command of Colonel Fucelli. Dependent on Fucelli's goodwill to save him from recall to Italy to face persecution as a Jew, Navarro is forced to record Fucelli's war crimes as well his triumphs in establishing Italian rule. In the prologue, set in 1974, Hirut, the central character in the novel, has possession of a box of these photos to return to Navarro... and interspersed through the narrative, signalled by the heading 'Photo', there are descriptions of their content. But that content is then undermined by a description also of the circumstances in which they were taken.
On the back is a photographer's stamp that has faded over the years. There were several photographers roaming their area, shooting pictures and trading them with one another. Ettore has written: Una schiava abissina, an Abyssinian slave, but this is not one of his. He has never been near the cook and Aklili and Tariku and Seifu at the same time. He has never been allowed the privilege of standing in front of those great fighters in complete and unquestioned safety. He would not have taken that photo and walked away alive. (p.93)
A chorus also disrupts the narrative from time to time. Again in the interview Mengiste explained that although many readers have recognised this as a device from the drama of Ancient Greece, the chorus, in fact, is also a common feature in storytelling throughout Africa. (There is, for example, a chorus of voices in Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose; there is a chorus in Ama Ata Aidoo's Changes. If I remember correctly, there is a chorus of Igbo spirits in Ben Okri's The Famished Road, and Igbo spirits narrate aspects of Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.) The first time the chorus intervenes to undermine the narrative in The Shadow King is startling: Aster, Hirut's cruel mistress who beats her savagely and locks her up in the dark without food or water, is then abruptly revealed as the very reluctant bride of Kidane. Her bitterness derives from marital rape on her bridal night.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2021/03/16/the-shadow-king-by-maaza-mengiste/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Mar 16, 2021 |
This story was tough to get into, and parts were brutally hard to read: rapes, whippings, but brought the cruelty home to me. I admired the resilience and determination of Aster and Hirut, and was impressed with the portrayal of their shifting relationship. The men were complex - lovable and hateful. ( )
  KymmAC | Feb 24, 2021 |
The prose is lyrical and full of strong images. I appreciated it telling me a story I didn't know. It brought the landscape to life in many ways. Her use of multiple voices was effective. However, the plot often felt stalled to me -- the stress on a woman as a soldier, but then battle scenes that were confusing and did not involve much battle. ( )
  erikasolberg770 | Jan 19, 2021 |
(9.5)What a marvelous book and in my opinion unlucky not to have won this years ManBooker. I found it informative, confronting and beautifully crafted.
The story opens with an older woman, Hirut, travelling with a box of photos and letters to a rendezvous with Ettore, a retired photographer of the Italian army, which invaded Ethiopia in 1935.
We then are taken back to Hirut in 1935, a servant for Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie's army. As the men mobilize against the invading Italians, the women are expected to follow, providing food and medical support. When morale gets low, as Haile Selassie flees to Britain for safety, Hirut makes a suggestion that they disguise one of their men as Selassie and the women insist on taking up arms with the men.
When Kidane's wife, Aster and Hirut are captured and taken to a concentration camp in the high country they meet Ettore. Ettore's role is to photograph, the Italian assaults and indeed the captured prisoners but his commanding officer goes one step further asking him to take photos of the atrocities committed by the Italians. This doesn't sit comfortably with Ettore but he feels he has no choice. He develops a respect for the courage displayed by the Ethiopians. When the Italians follow Germany's lead in eliminating Italians of Jewish ancestry, Ettore is recalled to Italy. He buries his treasured photos and letters under a tree, witnessed by Hirut. After being rescued, Hirut and Aster join their menfolk in another attack on the Italian camp. Ettore asks Hirut to unearth his box and keep it safe.
This book had this reader seeking further enlightenment about the 2nd Ethiopian-Italian war, an event I had no prior knowledge of and also of Haile Selassie's reign. There is so much more to this story, the complex relationship between Kidane, Aster and Hirut, both violent and caring, the portrayal of a divided nation and the political and historical background that precedes war between nations. I feel better informed for reading this. ( )
  HelenBaker | Dec 13, 2020 |
I wanted to like this book based on the Italian invasion of Ethiopia during World War II, but I just could not get into the story. I finally gave up trying. ( )
  thornton37814 | Nov 22, 2020 |
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Mengiste, Maazaauteur(e) principal(e)toutes les éditionsconfirmé
Miles, RobinNarrateurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
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With the threat of Mussolini's army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid in Kidane and his wife Aster's household. Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie's army, rushes to mobilize his strongest men before the Italians invade. His initial kindness to Hirut shifts into a flinty cruelty when she resists his advances, and Hirut finds herself tumbling into a new world of thefts and violations, of betrayals and overwhelming rage. Meanwhile, Mussolini's technologically advanced army prepares for an easy victory. Hundreds of thousands of Italians--Jewish photographer Ettore among them--march on Ethiopia seeking adventure.As the war begins in earnest, Hirut, Aster, and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale. She helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor and soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms against the Italians. But how could she have predicted her own personal war as a prisoner of one of Italy's most vicious officers, who will force her to pose before Ettore's camera?What follows is a gorgeously crafted and unputdownable exploration of female power, with Hirut as the fierce, original, and brilliant voice at its heart. In incandescent, lyrical prose, Maaza Mengiste breathes life into complicated characters on both sides of the battle line, shaping a heartrending, indelible exploration of what it means to be a woman at war.

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